Required Reading

The only LGBTQ+ historic district in the US is falling apart, according to Leo Rocha in Vice:

From the 1950s to the mid-70s, Druid Heights attracted a revolving cast of guests and short-term residents that included some of the biggest names in the American cultural avant-garde, from Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, to musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Steve Miller, to prominent feminist reformers Catharine A. MacKinnon and Margo St. James. For 12 years, it would serve as a hangout spot, and eventually a base of operations, for the influential philosopher Alan Watts, who popularized the practice of Zen Buddhism and the study of Eastern philosophy in the West.

At its height in the late 1960s, the community was home to around 34 people—and to one of the most fascinating chapters in American counterculture and LGBTQ history. Gidlow had plans to turn it into one of America’s first retreats for women artists. That is, until the federal government decided it wanted the land in 1972, setting off a chain of events that would not only threaten the community’s continued existence, but to erase it from collective memory.

In 1977, the National Park Service absorbed Druid Heights into the Muir Woods National Monument, an area of historic redwood trees it had folded into the recently created Golden Gate National Recreation Area (or GGNRA), a sprawling nature preserve on the outskirts of San Francisco that would become one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. After the government invoked eminent domain, only legal tenants were allowed to live there, ending its status as a revolving door for artists and thinkers.

Tech writer Derick David suggests NFTs are the biggest scam of the year. I don’t really agree with everything that David argues (since some of the stuff here has been said about conceptual art too, and we’ve moved past that), but it’s worth reading this short to consider the various facets of this issue:

A Stanford professor and researcher, Alex Stamos has a range of fascinating views on the world of data, privacy, and general internet activity.

Stamos is the former chief information security officer of Yahoo and Facebook and recently, he spoke at an event hosted by Web Summit’s sister event, Collision where he mentioned,

“Most NFTs are scams. If you’re buying an NFT, there is a good chance you’re being ripped off”

Alex is working to improve the security and safety of the internet through his teaching and research at Stanford University. However, with regards to NFTs, he’s far from being a fan.

Critic John Yau talks to Stephanie Bailey of Ocula about an exhibition he recently curated for Tina Kim Gallery featuring the work of three Asian-American Modernists:

SB: I was wondering if you could talk more about this, as you researched these three individuals. What micro and macro histories emerged for you?

JY: All three took a different route to get to America. There was no migration or surge. John Pai’s father was a minister who studied in Chicago. He was in the American army during World War II.

John Pai was born in 1937. He did not see his father until he was eight. When Korea was divided into two countries in 1948, his father and mother—who was raised in Russia, knew Russian and Korean, and played the piano—decided to bring the family to America. They came on army transport.

On the way from California to Wheeling, West Virginia, they stopped in Ohio and a friend who owned the place where they were staying, said to John’s father: ‘You’re in America now. Your children should have American names.’

And suddenly his name became John, and his sister’s name became Mary. When they arrived in Wheeling, John Pai’s father soon decided to return to Korea to fight for Korean liberation. Soon after, John’s mother went to help John’s father in that fight. Essentially, they left him in Wheeling when he was 15.

Ai Weiwei on “reclaiming art from capitalism” in the Economist, which was surprising to read considering he’s one the highest selling contemporary artists, but still worth looking at (BTW, I finished his memoir and it’s quite good; though he’s not very self critical, which makes sense when you realize he wrote it more for his son):

All this is reflected in our era’s culture. It is unduly influenced by profit-driven companies with inordinate power over our economic and political structures, education and media. Their pervasive impact is manifested in society’s value judgments, aesthetic education and philosophy. The cultural landscape is also shaped by the framework of Western capitalism and its associated concepts of democracy, freedom and a partial dose of socialism. A complete system has been formed, spanning from the shaping of aesthetics under these conditions, through cultural education, art criticism and the curatorial processes of galleries and museums, to artworks’ eventual entry into the narrative of Western art history. This system reflects the values and aesthetic tendencies of capitalism in every respect. 

It is characterised by capitalism’s fervent advocacy of individual freedom, its encouragement of so-called “creativity” and the idealisation of unfettered personal development. Its symptoms can be observed in the overwhelming tendency to consider art from a purely commercial perspective, neglecting spiritual concerns in favour of wealth accumulation. At the same time, societal injustices, regional inequalities, exploitation of the weak and unsustainable use of natural resources are ignored. By dodging these questions, contemporary art has become just a form of entertainment, detached from spiritual life. Art’s power to shape self-awareness and assist in the understanding of identity has been compromised. The outlook is dim.

Contrary to Thanksgiving mythology, three descendants of Native American groups in New England (Dawn Neptune Adams, Maulian Dana, with Adam Mazo) explain in the Guardian how the settler government actually offered cash for dead Native American children:

According to our research, there were at least 69 government-issued scalp edicts across the Dawnland from 1675 to 1760, and at least 50 scalp edicts issued elsewhere in the United States until 1885. The proclamations targeted specific tribes by name – and occasionally marked specific tribes safe because they were “allies” of the authorities. But neither scalpers nor authorities had much way of knowing the tribal affiliations of the people whose scalps they took, so for centuries bounties were a license to kill all Indigenous people.

Recently, Dave Chapelle has been making the bizarre claim (repeated by the Economist) that his friend who is trans killed herself because of bullying from other trans person. Michael Hobbs investigates and finds there is no evidence that is the case and that the comedian may be lying to protect himself from critics of his recent comedy special (and revealing himself to potentially be even more transphobic than is already known):

Is Chappelle really implying that trans people are the reason trans people are more likely to die by suicide? Are you fucking kidding me?

Chappelle presents his friendship with Dorman as a story of empathy, two people from different walks of life finding common ground. But when you reduce it down to its core elements, what has Chappelle actually learned? He told some transphobic jokes, trans people criticized him, a trans woman told him they were incorrect, then they hounded her to death. 

What an incredible first: a film shot entirely in the Blackfoot language. Brian D’Ambrosio of the Missoulian reports:

Shot entirely on Blackfeet tribal land, the dialogue of “Sooyii” is delivered in the ancestral tongue of its people, the first film to be produced in such form. Those associated with the production are hopeful that it will not be the last of its kind.

“I believe that ‘Sooyii’ is a message to Hollywood, to directors, to producers, and, even to our own people, to set the bar by including Indigenous language in film,” said Jesse DesRosier, who translated the script to Blackfoot and appeared in the film.

DesRosier, a teacher of the Blackfoot language at Cuts Wood School in Browning and Blackfeet Community College, instructed the tenets and structure of Blackfoot to the cast. “Sooyii” carries with it a deep sense of urgency, because the Blackfoot language, he said, is greatly in danger of erasure, of becoming a moribund artifact of the culture.

A millennial begs to be liked by Gen Z:

This week, people were obsessed with this thread by a San Francisco bus driver about a popular action scene in the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie by Marvel. It’s really worth reading:

Finally watching Shang-Chi, here as a bus operator to rate the SFT transit factors of The Bus Scene:

— Mack, yes, That Mack (@that_mc) November 13, 2021

Truly a mess:

And this, everyone, is the greatest video of all time: pic.twitter.com/Kf3jHXUliQ

— Jay Lawrence (@jaylawrence91) November 16, 2021

Finally an excuse we can all use:

[me arriving late to things] sorry supply chain problems

— Delia Cai (@delia_cai) November 17, 2021

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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